tv KQED Newsroom PBS June 13, 2014 8:00pm-8:31pm PDT
next on "kqed newsroom," a landmark ruling shakes up california's education system. a judge rejects tenure for teachers. lawmakers hammer out next year's budget. b.d. wong and his role in the "orphan of zhao." >> the actor uses the emotions of his life and the feelings of his life to create the characters that he creates. >> i do not know this minister. i do not know this orphan.
. good evening. and welcome to "kqed newsroom." i'm thuy vu. the debate over california's state budget used to be full of political fireworks and almost always went long past the fourth of july. lawmakers lose their paychecks if they miss the june 15th deadline. still the deal to be voted on this weekend is not without controversy. it calls for a subsidy to build a high-speed rail, and it fails to restore long-term funding to some programs slashed during the recession. >> reporter: john myers, in most
budget negotiations everybody gets a little, everybody gives a little. is that what we have this time around? >> yeah. what you have seen time and time again is the governor, i think, coming out with the winning hand. he has become the de facto leading voice, leading crafter of budgets. he has a line, and he holds tight on that line. and i think we saw it again this year. >> reporter: what did he get that the democrats and the legislature just really didn't want to give him? >> a couple of things come to mind. the first thing is the projection of revenues. the democrats wanted to use higher forecasted revenues. the governor's budget team has a lower forecast of revenues. first of all, it does slow the rate of spending. second of all, it allows the
idea of more money that would come in over those forecasts than to be reconsidered next year for debt or for other things. i think that's a big victory for a governor who's going to be on the ballot this year. >> reporter: we have gone through many years of budget cuts, social spending cuts. democrats wanted that restored. how are they feeling about that in this regard? >> they did get some. let's talk about that. they did get some additional help in cal works. by the way, the governor got something out of it too, which is high-speed rail. if you look at what democrats have wanted the last few year, they want to restore programs to
the level of funding they were before the recession. i think that's a big sticking point as we have gone through these three years between these legislative democrats and their democratic governor. >> is that because jerry brown is more frugal than they are? he's been around the track a couple times. >> maybe. i think a lot of it is priorities. the governor's priority has been debt and balance, however you define that. legislative democrats believe these programs, especially these social services programs, represent a safety net for californians who don't have anywhere else to turn. one of the things you hear a lot about the frustration from democrats with the governor. whether we see that boil into something that comes out before this election, i don't know and frankly i'd be surprised.
can the governor do more to affor those in poverty? >> reporter: is there anything in here you think foretells what he might want to do or not want to do if he gets reelected? >> these have been cautious budgets. these are about the payoff promise in 2010. to right the ship of state, to solve the problems. i think it would be fascinating if he wins in november. most people believe the governor has a pretty darn good chance. if he comes back next year, does he continue debt? what more can he do on high-speed rail? what about water? i think the governor would pivot more toward an investment,
leaving something for california rather than solving fiscal problems. this is a guy who is personally and professionally frugal. he thinks government is not the answer to everything. that's how he was in the 70s and 80s. >> reporter: so there will be voting on this sunday night, john. happy father's day i guess. >> we'll be here watching it all. coming up, actor b.d. wong on his latest role. now to a court decision that threatens to shatter a long held practice in many school districts. this week in los angeles, county superior court judge ruled that california teacher tenure laws hurt students by making it too hard to dismiss bad teachers. the lawsuit vergara versus california was filed by a group called students matter. it could have implications
throughout the country. teachers unions plan to appeal the ruling contending it will harm students more in the long run. joining me now is chris rosenberg, jennifer lynn wolf, and jill tucker. jill, this legislation is certain to be appealed. is the case an effective way to address the issue of low performing teachers in schools? >> it really depends on how you ask. as you said, the union does not feel that the problem is poor teachers and the problems of these low-performing schools are bad teachers. the reality is a lot of these low-performing schools have inexperienced teachers, teachers in their first few years of schooling.
often, there are openings in these schools. you know, there's a lot of questions about whether -- just getting rid of tenure or extending it from two to three years is going to make that much a difference. it can be difficult to fire teachers that are not so great. there is a process to get bad teachers out of schools. many teachers are counselled out. in talking to a lot of principals and teachers, the issue isn't bad teachers in the schools. it's addressing the problems that the kids come in with. a lot of teachers aren't necessarily prepared to address that. i don't think overnight getting rid of tenure we're going to see test scores go through the roof. >> chris, as a principal, you deal with tenure. how do you feel about that? is two years enough to evaluate a teacher?
does it make your job harder? >> yeah, i've been honored and blessed to have countless fantastic teachers over my tenure as principal. the majority of folks i have supervised are terrific and you find out pretty early on in their career they're ready to do this work. there have been a handful of teachers who struggle and haven't developed the skills necessary to be successful during that time period. i'm excited to have this conversation about what makes a great teacher. i think if we're going to talk about teachers who struggle, we need to talk about teachers who are outstanding and do a fantastic job because there are many of them. >> within the current structure, do you feel you have the tools to support the good teachers? many of them are, as you say, terrific. >> sometimes i do. as a country, it would be fantastic if we invested
financial resources into this. we have teachers who work beyond what they do with no financial compensation. >> jennifer, you teach young people at stanford who want careers in education. what are you hearing from these young folks? is tenure a big deal to them? >> i think that the students with whom i speak at stanford, what they tell me most often about the teaching profession they want to enter is they want to do something that is meaningful and challenging to them and something that is going to make a difference and something that's going to challenge them to be educated further and work with others. i have never heard one of my students talk about job security or tenure until this week when there's been a great deal of interest discussing around what it means to retain and fire teachers. >> tenure is somewhat of a foreign concept.
when you look at silicon valley, programmers and engineers in these startups, there isn't such a thing as tenure. it is interesting to look at it from a historical perspective. it is imbedded in the teaching profession, but not so much other than college professors in the professions that young people are going into now. >> don't the unions have a point here? the teachers unions are the most powerful lobby in the state. their argument is that tenure protects academic freedom, it helps retain teachers who might flee when the pay is not good. >> i think they have some good points there. there are teachers who could very easily go to silicon valley and choose to go into a high-paying profession and they choose to go into teaching.
part of it is they know there's stability in that situation. >> where do we go from here then? california spends $8300 per student. the problem is complex. it certainly goes beyond tenure and dismissal and layoff rules for teachers. jill, how do we address this? how do we address the low-performing schools and make sure every student gets an equal education? >> to a certain degree, this conversation is debate about bad teachers. it is actually pulling people away from the real issues in education. granted, we need strong teachers in the schools, but the real issues are the poverty in these communities, trauma in these communities, things like that. christopher was talking about it
earlier. he's seen a handful out of 200 in his ten years as principal. we're talking about a relatively small number. if we're talking about effectively changing the lives of these children in these schools, it goes so much more beyond just firing the handful of bad teachers. it is training teachers to address the needs of these kids. there are great teachers who still need the training to address the trauma and the grief and the other factors in the lives of these kids. the issue with this is it is really pushing the limelight on one factor of public education, but a lot of teachers, a lot of people in the community, are saying that's just one small problem compared to a lot of things we should be talking about. >> go ahead. >> i completely agree with that. if this can turn into a larger debate on what great teaching is and what schools like john muir and other schools like it need,
that would be a fantastic outcome. if we can begin debating what we can do to create fantastic schools, that's a fantastic outcome. >> we have multiple tools at our disposal that can help us understand who is best prepared to be a teacher. when i took my teaching credential in california in the early 1980s, i had to submit my college transcript, two test scores, and some hours of student teaching. now, students submit a whole portfolio of their practice, just to be submitted and evaluated to see if they are ready for the profession. videos of them teaching and artifacts of their practice. we are finding ways to communicate to the people coming
into the profession this is really a substantial thing you're taking on and to help people who are thinking about hiring them and working with them -- >> because teaching is hard. i have seen that in my years of watching. it's complicated. >> how do you evaluate a good teacher? >> we have our traditional systems in the district. the observations and evaluation cycle. you know good teaching when you see it. you step into a classroom and you see students engaged. it is important not to take snapshots of teaching and draw out too many conclusions there. day in and day out, seeing students happy and engaged. seeing the work they're able to produce. you can tell good teaching when you see it. >> this lawsuit, i want to go back to the lawsuit because it seemed to have shifted the debate as well. it ignited a whole national conversation. it used to be when you talked about teacher tenure and
dismissal, it was very much a partisan debate at the legislative level. this lawsuit brings it into the constitutional realm. do you think it will have a significant impact in the long run in how these issues are debated? >> i real ly do. this is a real landmark case. this one is really going into some sacred ground and looking at all aspects of equity in schools or equal access to an education, which is a constitutional right in california. and i think it's going to shift it even more to education as a civil right. >> and pushing this idea that you're not just -- public education doesn't just mean you get to be in school. it means you get to be in school and receive a powerful education. >> we will have to leave it
there. thank you all for being with us today. well, actor and san francisco native b.d. wong is currently appearing in "the m orphan of zhao." in his latest stage role, he plays the country doctor who faces a heart breaking choice in the classic chinese legend of family, honor, and revenge. first, a clip from "the orphan of zhao." >> you betrayed my friend, that noble minister. you betrayed the princess who entrusted her child to her and you betrayed the orphan of zhao. >> i was only ever a simple doctor. i did not know this minister. i do not know this orphan of
zhao. the name means nothing to me. >> the name means nothing to you. >> reporter: b.d. wong, welcome to newsroom. >> thanks. >> reporter: what was it like to have your act premier in front of a hometown audience? >> it's a big deal for me and my family. i was a kid when i went to the stage. pardon me. it's an incredible invitation to be able to act there and to actually have it happen was mind-blowing to me. >> reporter: how do you prepare for a role like this? you play a country doctor who has to sacrifice his son in order to save the son of a massacred clan. how do you emotionally prepare
for that? >> it's very intense. there's not a lot of laughs when i make an entrance into the play. i'm big on cutting up and having fun. you have to be careful when and where you do that. i like to sit on the deck of the stage and not go back to the dressing room and kind of concentrate on the play and get into the world of the play before my character enters the play. that's a big part of it. sitting in the dark and not thinking about anything else. >> reporter: you in real life are a father. you have a son who is about 14 years old. when he and his brother were born prematurely, one of them didn't make it. how does that factor into the role you're playing? >> it's rather private, but at the same time it's probably no
surprise to anyone that the actor uses the emotions of his life and the feelings of his life to create the characters that he creates. so those feelings are of grief or joy, all the different emotions you feel when you're alive. >> reporter: and you bring those with you every night? >> you bring them with you. this is the part of the magic of being an actor. you need to immerse yourself into a situation and believe it is happening to you. if you don't believe it, no one else is going to believe it. how you do it, i can't really say. i will have to confess it's all about the vocabulary of this character. >> reporter: you are part of a virtually all asian cast. >> yes. >> reporter: which is unusual.
how different that is from 1991 ms. saigon. how different now is it for asian actors and actresses? >> it definitely is different -- >> reporter: the controversy was a caucasian was cast in a role of an asian character. >> a leading role. it was a big cry from the asian community because opportunities for asian american actors are so compromised. our stature in the industry is rather compromised. we're fighting in the community to make up for that. this was an opportunity that we took to protest this particular casting decision. it was done with a caucasian cast in london and created a similar controversy. this production is in response
to that. i'm grateful for it as a member of the asian american acting community because it's provided opportunities for us to not only work, but tell our own story and reach out to an asian american audience. >> when you say the roles or opportunities are compromised, what do you mean? >> if you're thinking in terms of employment and statistics. asian american actors are underexposed. you can count on one hand how many are in those positions. i was one of them on "law and order" for some seasons. >> is it easier in the bay area to find asian actors or is it they're out there but production companies aren't willing to cast
them? >> there's a marketability question that gets raised. people don't want to see asian actors in leading roles. it gets perpetuated to the point in performing like a play like "the orphan of zhao" is an exception to the rule. it is new and exciting. we're trying to change that with all the different efforts that we make. but it's really a very uphill battle. >> it is running through june 29th. what do you want people to take away from it? >> it is extremely satisfying emotionally for the audience. it's been very satisfying. the audience has been rising at the end in great support. >> b.d. wong, welcome home and thanks for coming in. >> thank you.
>> "orphan of zhao" runs through june 29th. joining me now is scott shafer. >> hi. >> last week we did an analysis on the situation with city hall. two developments this week. what are they? >> there's a lot of pressure on this accreditation commission to relent. nancy pelosi really going to bat for the school. we'll give you a couple more years to meet the criteria. that really was a huge relief. on friday, there was an appeal panel that the school had appealed to saying that this whole thing never should have happened in the first place. they didn't win in that round. the appeal panel said no. this now will go on for the next several months ahead as they
continue to address these problems. >> it sounds like they're getting a little bit of a reprieve in the decision that came down on friday that said the commission could come back and reevaluate their decision if city college of san francisco shows some improvement. >> yes, and there's also a trial scheduled. it's still possible that this whole threat will go away, depending on the outcome of that trial. let's turn our attention to something else. e cigarettes are gaining in popularity. which counties and what will the new rules do? >> santa clara county and sonoma. it applies all the regulations of tobacco and cigarettes to these ecigarettes. it's an acknowledgment that these things are similar and that they have health issues,
toxicity perhaps with the nicotine, and being a gateway for cigarette smoking to teenagers. >> the flip side of that is some smokers say it has helped them quit smoking. >> yeah. they do say that. scientists say there is no good data on that. the book is still open. okay. moving on to sports. some mixed news for the bay area. we've been eliminated for america's cup, but we're making the short list for u.s. cities for the 2024 olympics. >> they made the cut with l.a., boston, washington, d.c. now the u.s. olympic committee will take a look at those bids. if they put a city forward, it will be 2017 when the international ioc makes a decision. >> we still get the super bowl in 2016.
man: it's like holy mother of comfort food.ion. kastner: throw it down. it's noodle crack. patel: you have to be ready for the heart attack on a platter. crowell: okay, i'm the bacon guy. man: oh, i just did a jig every time i dipped into it. man #2: it just completely blew my mind. woman: it felt like i had a mouthful of raw vegetables and dry dough. sbrocco: oh, please. i want the dessert first! [ laughs ] i told him he had to wait.